Call me Ishmael: Kerrys Top Picks for kickass opening lines

The say you only get one chance at a first impression. So it’s no wonder that many writers report that the first sentence is the hardest to write.  A good opening line can set the tone for the whole book and quite often when considering buying a book, I’ll check out the first line. Here is my top 10 list of authors who nailed it!
And before anyone asks, I did omit “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. I just can’t un-hear “it was the best of times…it was the BLURST of times!”-Sorry Mr. Dickens.

On with the show!

10. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

9. Charlottes’ Web (E.B. White)
“‘Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”

Note: I love Charlottes’ Web, it’s one of my favorites, but what do you think the chances are that a book with an opening line about slaughtering a pig would make it into the hands of a 4-year-old today? Now all kids get are books are sharing and pooping and how everyone does both. Mollycoddling!

8. 1984 (George Orwell)
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

7. The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”

6. A Series of Unfortunate Events-#1 A Bad Beginning (Lemony Snicket)
“If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.”

5. Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides)
“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”

4. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

3. Matilda (Roald Dahl)
“It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.”

2. The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”
1. Pride and prejudice (Jane Austin):
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

As true today as it ever was 😉

Books to love about love!

I would be remiss if I started February without a listing of my top picks for Valentines month reading. Whether you’re dressing in pink angora and hoping there’s a ring in a tiny box hidden in his sock drawer*, or you’re telling everyone who will listen that Valentines day is just a “made up holiday to fill a drop in chocolate sales between Christmas and Easter”**, I bet you’ll find a book on this list that you’ll enjoy.
Best Pet-Love Love story: Marley & Me (John Grogan)

My cat is a jerk.
She bites people, and she tries to wake me up at 7am on Saturdays (she feels strongly that the weekends are no excuse to deviate from mealtime scheduling). If I close the bedroom door to sleep, she bashes it open with her chubby little body. She very well may be the worlds worst cat. But I love her like crazy. She’s my best friend. Anyone else out there with an animal best friend will love this classic pet-love story. John Grogan chronicles his 13 years with Marley the golden retriever, whom he describes as the “worlds worst dog”

 

 

Best “I-Hate-You-Wait-No-I-Actually-Love-You” Love story: Pride and Prejudice.

A Jane Austin classic, this witty love story about the hate-turning-to-love banter between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy was the first “thin line between love and

image: hate”. Elizabeth Bennet is the only Bennet sister not looking for a husband, so when a couple of eligible gentlemen move into town, she takes little notice. But soon she finds herself sparring with the very disagreeable yet very handsome Mr. Darcy. Disagreeing turns to banter and eventually love. A lovely tale from when romance was civilized and proper. The perfect antidote to the current dating protocol of “wat u doin 2nite?” text messages and whistling in lieu of proper compliments.

 


Best love story whose movie adaptation starred Rachel McAdams: The Time-Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Neffegger)

This was actually the toughest category. In the end I had to go with the best BOOK, which was not necessarily the best movie. The Time-traveler’s Wife is a wonderfully complicated love story. Henry DeTamble is a genetic anomaly who uncontrollably travels through time, punctuating not only his life but the one of his wife, Claire. The book uses alternative first person narratives and a non-linear story time line but somehow keeps this book an easy pleasure-read. Highly recommended.
Runner-up: The Notebook (the movie.) Watch. Cry. Love Ryan Gosling more and more every scene.

 

 

Best love story for a good cry: P.S. I Love You (Cecilia Ahern)

Not just a sniffle, or a little weep. A whole body sob, after which you will have a headache from dehydration. If you happen to be in a relationship, you won’t let the person out of your sight for days after reading this book. Newlyweds Holly and Gerry are your classic “meant to be” couple. Young, energetic, best friends, soul mates and so very in love. Before the book starts, Gerry passes away from a quick-growing brain tumour (ready your tissues…). Holly is devastated, obviously, and soon she discovers that her late husband has left her letters, gifts and advice to get her through her fist year without him (and now we’re all crying).This is a book about love, grieving and moving on.
Note: While I distinctly remember loving this book, so I am confident in recommending it, I actually have not been able to get beyond page one since I started seriously dating J. Its just too intense if you tend to be an overly involved reader. I’m going to try again, so if you see a girl on the bus, sobbing, come on over and say hi!

 

Best “Love Stinks” anti-love story: Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov)
Not feeling the love? Looking for a tale of passion gone awry? Of sadness and despair where there once was the thrill of romance? I’ve got you covered. Nothing less romantic than the predatory tale of Humbert Humbert’s passion for the young (like,12 years young) Dolores Haze. It is a creepy, eerily plausible “love” that ends up ruining both of their lives.  Love Stinks! ***

 

 

 

 

 

* There isn’t. If he was going to propose he would have done it at Christmas. Statistically speaking, you’re more likely to get divorced than engaged in February.
**All holidays are made up, silly. Just eat some heart-shaped chocolates and it’ll all be over soon.

***Unless you have a husband as great as mine xo

Kerrys’ top picks: For Inspiration

Sometimes we all need a wake-up call, a great big kick in the ass, or just some plain old-fashioned motivation. I’m sure that we can all think of books that have sparked something inside of us to do something different, or just be a little better at what we’re doing now. These are just a few of the many books that have inspired me.

Jennifer Lancaster: “Such a Pretty Fat”

I don’t know about you, but I am so sick, tired and not at all inspired by all these weight loss stories that end in “I finally lost 100 lbs and now I can fit into that size 4 bridesmaids dress I already bought and my boyfriend is happy and I’m happy too! Thank YOU broccoli smoothies! “

So when I feel like I need to get my ass into gear, I really like giving this book a re-read. A real, honest and hilariously written story about the authors’ experience with a variety of popular diets, finally landing the oh-so-simple eat better and move more. There is no “thinner-is- always-better” subtext, and no weight loss to impress anyone else, this book is just about being your best self and feeling great at size 2, 12 or 22. This book inspires me to order a salad sometimes and try the new machines at the gym.

 

Randy Pausch: “The Last Lecture”

For those who don’t know, this book is the transcript of the last lecture of Professor Randy Pausch, who had been diagnosed with terminal stage cancer. His lecture is amazing, unsurprising as he was always known as a wonderful and inspiring speaker. But what stayed with me wasn’t anything in particular that was said in his lecture, but the idea of a “last lecture”.

What lessons do I leave behind? What good did I do while I was here? What advice to I have to offer the people I love who will be here after I’m gone. After reading this book I was a little afraid that If I had to give a last lecture it would be very much like this:

“Dipping Wendys’ fries into Frostys tastes like waffles. Also, y’all HAVE to check out Teen Mom, white trash-errific!”

This book inspires me to just BE better.

 

Ann M. Martin: “The Babysitters Club #1: Kristys’ Great Idea

Laugh all you want, but I would bet that an extraordinary number of little girls started their own BSC, or other small businesses after reading this book. I know two of them personally. I was one of them 😉

 

 

 

Gretchen Rubin: “The Happiness Project”
 Sometimes these inspirational biographies (the “Eat Pray Love” sub-genre) can have the opposing effect on me. Often the authors make a such a huge life change that their stories are intimidating and the lessons are almost inaccessible. I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to quit my job and move to Namibia and set up a medical laboratory. It would be cool I guess, but that’s not who I am and I don’t think that should mean that I can’t make changes in my life that have significant impact.

In this book, Rubin makes a series of small changes to her life in the form of theme-driven month-by-month resolutions. For example, one month her theme was Energy, and her resolutions inside that theme included going to bed at a certain hour and to de-clutter her home.

I just love the idea of a systematic method of making things better in a big way by changing the little things. I really believe that for most people, being happy with your life won’t come from selling your home and backpacking for 2 years, but from organizing your photos into books you can cherish, seeing the people you love more often, and getting your ass to a dentist regularly. I did a 6 month happiness project, and some things will stick, others will fail, but it was a valuable experience, and I will almost certainly do another one.

Jon Krakauer: “Into Thin Air

This book is the first hand account of the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster, in which five of Krakauers’ co-climbers died. I find this book inspiring on a couple different levels. Firstly, he climbed a mountain. That is just inspiring all by itself. If there are people out there climbing the highest mountain in the world, I’m pretty sure that I can step up my stairmaster game:

40 minutes at level 10-Because it’s there!

Secondly, the storm and resulting casualties had a profound effect on the author. But not only does he continue to climb, he resists the urge to simply chalk the whole tragedy up to inexperienced climbers or bad luck. He has been very publicly fighting for more stringent regulations and guidelines for dangerous climbs.  He turned what was no doubt a traumatic experience into motivation to make a change. It takes a lot of strength to re-live a painful experience again and again in the hopes of doing some good.

 

 

Dr. Seuss: “The Lorax”

 “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Enough said.